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Five key findings from Harvard’s slavery report

A pedestrian passed an entrance to Harvard Yard in Cambridge.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/file

Harvard University on Tuesday released a 130-page report detailing the institution’s historical ties to slavery. “Harvard leaders, faculty, staff, and benefactors enslaved people, some of whom labored at the University; accrued wealth through the slave trade and slave labor; and defended the institution of slavery,” the report says. Harvard’s president, Lawrence Bacow, said the university will spend $100 million to redress its legacy.

Below are five key findings from the report:

1. Harvard presidents, faculty, and staff enslaved more than 70 people. The report presents no evidence that the university itself owned people, but prominent members of the Harvard community did. Some enslaved people worked within Harvard’s walls, serving and feeding generations of Harvard students.

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2. Major early donations to the university came from men who built their wealth with slavery. During the first half of the 19th century, more than a third of money donated or promised to Harvard came from five men who used slavery or slave-produced commodities to build their fortunes. Their bequests helped Harvard “grow its collections,” “expand its physical footprint,” and “build a national reputation.”

3. Professorships and campus buildings still bear the names of men tied to slavery and discrimination. Mather House, an undergraduate dorm, is named after Increase Mather, a Harvard president in the 17th century who enslaved at least one person. Lowell House is named for university president A. Lawrence Lowell who, in the early 20th century, barred Black students from living in freshman housing.

4. The report includes recommendations for making amends. The report was the product of a committee – comprised of Harvard faculty, students and staff – that advises Harvard to fund educational opportunities for communities descended from enslaved people, especially in the South. It also recommends funding additional research into the enslavement of Native Americans and the admission to Harvard of more students from tribal communities. The report also calls for an “imposing physical memorial” on campus to honor enslaved people.

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5. Bacow accepted all of the recommendations and promised $100 million to fund them. Harvard says it will begin acting on the recommendations immediately and will carry out an annual accounting of its progress.


Mike Damiano can be reached at mike.damiano@globe.com.